Mechanical Properties at the Nanometer Scale (Overview)



Nanotechnology have played a significant role in the development of advanced devices. For instance, modern electronic devices requires the size of components to be reduced down to the nanometer scale in order to integrate various functions altogether in a small volume. Now, the smallest dimension of electronic components in commercial devices is only a few nanometers. Nano-fabrication techniques allow us to stack such small components into complicated device structures, and a complete set of these building blocks produces unbelievably high performances in various engineering applications. Furthermore, nanoscience allows us to create new classes of materials, such as nano-wires, nano-tubes, and nano-particles, which exhibit superior material properties. Nanomaterials have been extensively investigated to develop advanced batteries, reinforced composites, high performance sensors and devices, etc.

For a device application, one of the most important practical issues would be the mechanical stability of each small component. Plastic deformation or fracture of any single component can cause a local disconnection of communication between components, leading to significant malfunction of devices. Therefore, these small components are supposed to remain mechanically as stable as possible for a long term, and materials scientists need to design and create an advanced material that possesses excellent mechanical properties. In addition, it is very important to understand the mechanical properties of advanced materials at the nanometer scale, which are known to be often “VERY different” from those at bulk scale.

To me, it is really FUN to study mechanical behavior of materials at small length scales because you can see something unusual, unexpected, and different! There’s plenty of room at the bottom (Richard Feynman)!

Seok-Woo Lee’s research laboratory is focusing on mechanical characterization of various materials at small length scales. The following is the list of research topics that Lee’s group is currently working on at University of Connecticut.


Development of Nanomechanical Testing Methods

Novel Complex Intermetallic Compounds

Hybrid Organic-Inorganic Nanocomposites

Metallic Micro-/Nano-Particles 

Body-Centered-Cubic Metals at Ultra-low Temperatures

Nanocrystalline ceramics (TBD)

High-Strain Rate Deformation (TBD)